Fire at Carapook, Henty & Merino - 1919

"The Border Watch" (Mount Gambier, SA) Friday, 21st February 1919.

HOMESTEADS BURNT.

HEAVY LOSSES AT CASTERTON.

ESTIMATED AT OVER 30,000.

The most destructive station and farm fire known in the Casterton district in 50 years occurred last Saturday, the estimate being that the damage done amounts to 30,000 or more, for in its rapid flight, a wide frontage, carried by a howling gale, it consumed a splendid homestead, some scores of miles of fencing, numerous threshed and unthreshed stacks, a quantity of grain in bags, some bag stacks, milking-sheds, stables, pigs, sheep, and many thousands of acres of grass. The outbreak is thought to be due either to phosphorised baits for rabbits or the burning wad of a duck-shooter's gun.

The fire began at 11 o'clock at Carapook, six miles from Casterton. The wind at times blew a gale from the north. Notice of the fire was telephoned in all directions, and within half an hour a strong force was at work beating out the flames leaping 10ft. high through tall rye-grass, but no effective work could be done. At Stock Bros.' Cammais Estate, which was reached by the fire travelling at a motor car's speed, fences and grass were swept and sheep were lost as well as three stacks of freshly threshed straw and 800 bays of oats and barley. The homestead was saved with much difficulty. Mr. Stock estimates his losses at 4,000, which is only partially covered by insurance in the South British Company. The adjoining farms of P. Doyle and John Theenan suffered the loss of fencing, grass, and stock, and on Kelvin Grove, near by the estate of R. T. Mitchell, a large quantity of grass and fencing was rapidly destroyed, as well as three stacks of unthreshed oats. On a section of the estate worked by a share farmer named McCarthy, a desperate fight was successfully made, and saved the homestead, but the sheds and a large quantity of firewood 20 yards from the house were reduced to ashes, while the cow-shed, which caught fire, was saved by throwing two buckets of tea and a can of cream on the flames. About 40 pigs were burnt here. Other neighbouring sufferers were J. J. Roulston and his brothers, J. Mills, Koch Bros., and others, who lost many miles of fencing, grass, stacks, sheep, &c. The fire crossed the Wannon River, the burning front being over six miles in width. It was then trending two ways, namely, towards Coleraine on one wing and towards Merino on the other. On the river A. Matheson's property, Iona, was attacked, whilst disastrous results ensued when J. Cameron's, Dochanassie Estate was reached. The owner was away duck-shooting at the time, but there were a number of helpers present. Their efforts, however, were of no avail in any direction, and in a very short time the handsome wooden homestead was reduced to ashes, together with all its contents, outbuildings, sheds, and fences. Nothing but chimneys and cinders now mark the spot. Mrs. Cameron and her four children were unable even to save any clothing except what they wore at the time. The live stock, fencing, and grass were also burnt, the clearance being complete. Mrs. Cameron and family were taken by motor-car to the residence of her mother, Mrs. MacIntyre, of Laggan, Merino. The husband was unaware of the circum stances until he reached Casterton in the evening.

Mr. Charles Rhodes, of Greylands, Henty, whose property is occupied by his two sons, lost a large stretch of fencing, while his sons suffer heavily in the loss of a quantity of hay, many sheep, harness, a chaffcutter, and the men's hut, in which the two working lads had 16 in cash. It is understood that there was no insurance on Mr. Rhodes's property. About 6 o'clock on Saturday evening the fire reached the Merino racecourse. At this time the wind subsided, making it possible for the beaters to secure the mastery. Dur ing the night the control was fully maintained, and the men went out with a water-cart extinguishing logs and fence carts. The light rainfall on Sunday morning proved useful. The latest reports are that things are safe. Besides this fire there were three others burning in various directions around here-one at Bahgallah, another in the Dergholm district, and another in the scrub towards Strathdownie. The extent of the damage at those places has not been learned.

Casterton, Monday.

No fresh outbreak of Saturday's extensive grass fire has occurred, and as the weather is cool and somewhat damp all danger is thought to be over. The damage done by the fire is large. Fourteen thousand acres of grass were consumed. Stock Bros., of Cammais, Sand ford, estimate their loss at 4,000 ; J. D. Cameron, of Dochanassie, loses 2,000 ; Rhodes Bros., of Greylands, Henty, lose 2,000 ; Koch Bros., of Henty, have lost 100 sheep, 1,200 acres of grass, and fencing ; Leurs Bros, have lost 1,000 acres of grass and fencing ; the Merino Downs station has lost 3,000 acres of grass and much fencing ; Harris and Dunke, who rent Springfield, near where the fire broke out, have lost 1,000 acres of grass, with fencing, and 70 sheep. Numerous landholders have had losses, and many of them are not insured.

A remarkable experience was that of a returned soldier named Roulston, who occupied a farm on the estate of Miss Henty, near Merino, let to him by that lady free of rental for a term. He grew one of the best crops of oats in the district, and had 10 stacks unthreshed near the road. The fire approached the stacks rapidly, and they would have been demolished for certain, but for Messrs. D. W. Brock, J. MacIntyre, Fred Stevens, and James MacIntosh having taken the risk of starting a fire to act as a break. The scheme was successful, and several hundred pounds worth of property was saved.

Rhodes Bros, removed a number of valuables and personal articles from the homestead to an outhouse that was supposed to be quite safe from the fire. It transpired, however, that the homestead was saved, and the outhouse with its contents was destroyed. A fire-fighter left his motor-car on the roadside, and when he returned found that the grass had been burned around and under the car, but the vehicle itself was safe and sound.--"Argus."

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